£24m Advanced Manufacturing Building opens at Nottingham University

The University of Nottingham has opened a £24m Advanced Manufacturing Building (AMB) which it hopes will keep UK manufacturing competitive for future generations.

IfAM is helping many large companies like Rolls Royce manufacture next-generation technologies by employing the latest research in 3D printing, artificial intelligence, collaborative robotics and material science.
IfAM is helping companies like Rolls Royce improve productivity by employing the latest research in AI, collaborative robotics and material science – image courtesy of the University of Nottingham

Opened by Siemens UK CEO, Juergen Maier, the AMB will be used to support teaching and research activities across the Faculty of Engineering and wider University of Nottingham.

Maier said the University of Nottingham’s AMB, “will help place the region and indeed the country at the cutting edge of digital manufacturing.”

It will be used by three main research groups belonging to the faculty; Centre for Additive Manufacturing (CfAM), Composites Research Group and the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IfAM).

The total facility is 96,000 sqft in size and consists of lab and office space, teaching space and a specialist clean room facility.

Professor Svetan Ratchev, director of IfAM, said the AMB will help to support and encourage the growth of emerging industries and prepare manufacturers for the challenges that are taking place:

“Skills challenges remain a key issue for many manufacturing businesses in the UK, due to factors such as the fast pace of technology development, an ageing workforce and a shortage of graduates with relevant multidisciplinary skills and experience.

The Institute is helping to shape the manufacturing research agenda nationally and internationally and is supplying the technology and specialist skills to support key industrial sectors and encourage the growth of emerging industries.”

An ASTRAL rotocraft model is on display (Left to right): Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UK; Svetan Ratchev, IFM Director; Andy Long, Deputy Chancellor, University of Nottingham
An ASTRAL rotocraft model is on display (L to R): Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UK; Svetan Ratchev, IFM director; Andy Long, deputy chancellor, University of Nottingham

IfAM is helping many of Britain’s leading manufacturers such as GSK, BAE Systems and JLR to deliver world-class research and transfer the knowledge created into high-impact industrial technologies.

Currently, the centre is working on a new range of robot ‘mechanics’ that will transform Rolls Royce’s jet engine maintenance and will hopefully cut delays for airline passengers, and therefore, save money.

IfAM manufacture high value products by providing next-generation technologies to improve productivity by taking the latest research in 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and collaborative robotics among others.

They have worked in a variety of sectors including the aerospace, automotive, medical, and process engineering sectors. Among the products they have helped to formulate include customised future aircraft and cars, to artisan or allergen-free lines for big name food brands.

IfAM also say they are “supporting local growth by helping business of all sizes to be at the forefront of technological and business innovation.” They say that many SMEs experience difficulties in sufficiently utilising new technologies.

As a result, they have collaborated with the Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), on an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded project “Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring” to explore how SMEs can benefit from smart technologies and low cost data analytics.

They also recently introduced the Digital Manufacturing Training System for SMEs (Digit-T) – an EU-funded bespoke online training programme tailored to help SMEs better understand digital manufacturing and apply the new technologies in their own companies.

Juergen Maier said that the building will help place the East Midlands at the centre of digital manufacturing: “It’s important because our future lies in driving a new technological revolution focusing on AI, automation, robotics and 3D printing.”
Juergen Maier said the AMB will help place the East Midlands at the centre of digital manufacturing. He said “our future lies in driving a new technological revolution focusing on AI, automation, robotics and 3D printing.”

Professor Ratchev says helping starts-ups in the East Midlands is another major objective of the centre. They’ll do this he notes, “by providing the technical support, training and expertise for commercialising the latest research results of the Institute.”

Earlier this year, Sajeeda Rose, the senior manager for growth deals and capital programmes, spoke about how the AMB will benefit the University of Nottingham, its students, teachers and advanced research on state of the art technology.

Rose said: “The new institute will align with the Government’s desire for a new industrial strategy, in key sectors such as advanced manufacturing, and with the ambitions of D2N2’s own programmes; to enable area companies to innovate, create new products and grow.”

The Centre for Additive Manufacturing will be home to a Clean Room facility. The site secured a £1m grant from the Wolfson Foundation and will be focused on pharmaceutical and electronics-orientated research. It is equipped with a 3D ink-jetting and extrusion printer systems, as well as characterisation equipment for developing pharmaceuticals.

Commenting as he opened the AMB, Juergen Maier said that the centre will help place the East Midlands at the centre of digital manufacturing: “It’s important because our future lies in driving a new technological revolution focusing on AI, automation, robotics and 3D printing as well as many other new exciting technologies.”

He stated the AMB “will ensure graduates are at the cutting edge and ready to take up the high productivity, high wage jobs of the future.”


Reporting by Harry Wise